STEUBENVILLE - Kelly Roggensack may have run the best practice of her 19-year-old life last week as the Franciscan University of Steubenville cross country team completed a day of training at the Robinson Montour Trail near Imperial.
"On the jog back, Kelly passed everyone and sprinted to the end of the trail. She gave her all on that last run and then came back to help and encourage others who were struggling. She gave her all and ran to the end of the race," recalled teammate Andrea Scott during closing remarks at Monday's memorial Mass for Roggensack.
The sophomore student at Franciscan University of Steubenville was remembered by her family and hundreds of university students, staff and faculty during a special memorial Mass at Finnegan Fieldhouse.
REMEMBERING?KELLY — A Franciscan University of Steubenville student lights the altar candles prior to a special memorial Mass Monday for Kelly Roggensack. -Ron Smith
Roggensack died last week when the Toyota Sequoia she was a passenger in swerved to avoid tire debris on U.S. Route 22 and plunged into a nearby wooded ravine. Six other students in the vehicle were injured.
According to Scott, "Kelly was such a beautiful person and she gave herself to so many people. She didn't wear her faith on her sleeve like so many others do. She wore her faith in her heart, in her smile and in the joy she brought as well as the hugs she had for everyone. She lived life to the fullest.
"People would ask her why she ran. But she would try anything and always had a smile on her face. She didn't have the best times in her races but she always ran beyond her potential. Kelly said last year that her goal was to finally start liking the running. I truly believe on her last day that she loved running. I feel blessed that I got to spend a last run with her," Scott said.
"It is hard to be sad today because Kelly is shining more than ever now because she is with God," added Scott.
The memorial Mass for Roggensack was a solemn event as students and faculty walked into the fieldhouse quietly.
Joe Loizzo, director of the university wellness center, said the university students, "have been relying on their faith as they cope with this tragedy."
"We have seen and talked to a number of people since the accident last week. And we encourage them to be strong in their faith. Unfortunately we have been down this road before with student deaths in past years. And this is a tough way to start the new school year," said Loizzo.
"We also see people who may never have fully grieved for someone who died in the past and this brings all that back. And for many of our students, this accident is the first time they have seen someone they know die. It is a tough time for everyone," said Loizzo.
The Rev. Gregory Plow, TOR, who served as the homilist during the memorial Mass, said Kelly targeted people, "who she felt didn't care for her. There were her friends in Reno, Nev., who thought her strong faith was odd. But she maintained her joy through her life."
"When Kelly was a freshman she was on the university track team. And there was a day when the team was at Carnegie Mellon for a meet. It was raining and miserable and some of the team members were complaining about the conditions. But Kelly volunteered to run a race and after she ran she asked her coach, 'how did I do'. Then she volunteered to run a second race and again asked her coach with a big smile on her face, 'how did I do'," related Plow.
"That joy she always had was the joy of being a child of God. I suggest to you that the end goal of heaven was closer for Kelly than for the rest of us. We believe Kelly has reached the goal but we have not reached that goal yet," Plow stated.
"Cross country runners usually want to know the way before a race. Jesus Christ is the way. He is the truth. He is the light, and he is the course we must take on the race. Kelly was a runner. Her race has ended. She has won victory in Christ. Yet our race continues," Plow said.
The Rev. Terence Henry, TOR, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville, served as the celebrant during the memorial Mass and had a special message for the Roggensack family.
"To the parents, sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, I can assure you Kelly and you will remain part of our university family as long as teachers teach here, as long as students learn in our halls and as long as runners press on to the finish line," Henry said.
Local arrangements were handled by the Mosti Funeral Home.
(Gossett can be contacted at email@example.com.)